Family has always meant a lot to ATL UTD 2 midfielder Baboucarr Njie. Family kept him motivated while he was growing up; they are the support system that made him believe he could make it as a professional soccer player. They are what got him through his depression when he was cut from a team and who he celebrated with when he signed with Atlanta.
“My mom invested in me, she believed in me. She always was the one waking me up early and forcing me to go to practice when she caught me sleeping in,” Njie remembered fondly. “My step-dad would get up at 4 am to drive me to practice. My biological dad always knew I’d be here. When I was younger, all the stuff he used to buy me was always soccer stuff. It really meant a lot.”
As a child growing up in The Gambia, soccer gave Njie a chance to make a name for himself and a platform to excel. All the early mornings and late nights spent getting touches helped foster a love for the game that he has carried with him from The Gambia to America.
“It was the only thing we saw growing up. I had no other options for any other type of sport or any other thing to fall in love with, so it was love for me,” Njie acknowledged. “It was how I grew up, it was an escape for me when I got up every morning. Sometimes we even got in trouble because we wouldn’t come home, staying out late playing soccer.”
Motivated by his love for the game and his determination to succeed, Njie never dreamed that the game that brought him so much joy would also be the source of his greatest heartbreak. Njie left college early to train with a professional team. He told himself there was no other option than to make it as a professional player. But he was cut instead of getting a contract.
“When they told me things weren’t going to work out, I was depressed. I was totally depressed,” Njie admitted. “If it wasn’t for my mom, my step dad and my biological dad, I don’t know what I would have done. My mom was there for me; she’s been my rock.”
With the help of his family and his religion, Njie kept his faith that soccer was still the right choice for his future. In fact, the setbacks he faced made him appreciate the game even more. Njie returned to NC Wesleyan and helped lead his team to the East Division Title. In his last season with the Battling Bishops, he was named the USA South Player of the Year, First Team All-Conference and selected as a D-III First Team All-American.
Getting cut motivated Njie to return to school and ensure his final campaign would get him the professional contract he had dreamed of all his life. After finishing his junior season, Njie came to Atlanta for a tryout and left everything he had on the pitch. A couple days later, Njie got a call from his agent that changed his life.
“My agent called and told me that Atlanta wanted to sign me. I thought he was pranking me. My eyes started filling up with tears, and I was excited,” Njie said with a smile in his voice. “It was like everything you prayed for just came to you in a flip. I forgot all about the struggles that I had gone through, every other hard thing. It felt like that news filled me up and I forgot everything else.”
Njie quickly remembered why he loved the game so much and all the support that got him to where he is now. As the team begins to train again, Njie hopes to bring success for his other family—his teammates.
“I can’t be more excited to rejoin the team and give them everything I have in me. I’m not here to call myself a professional or say I’ve made it. This is my dream and here I am,” Njie claimed. “I want to be somebody to make a name for myself. I want to put the team somewhere. I want to have my focus towards that.”
Atlanta is family, on and off the pitch. Baboucarr Njie strives to bring honor to his family and glory to his teammates.